Saturday, September 27, 2014
12: 45 BST
Liverpool take on Everton in the Merseyside derby on Saturday. Both teams need to gather some momentum. Roberto Martinez’s Everton and Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool both exceeded expectations last time and have both failed to do the same this time out, even if the league has only have five games to show for it.
Liverpool sit in eleventh place with six points- two wins. Everton are in fourteenth place with five points- one win and two draws.
Team News, Predicted Line-up and Tactics
The Reds come into this game with a 3-1 embarrassing defeat at the hands of West Ham in the Premier League. They also played Middlesbrough midweek and only bear them on penalties. Raheem Sterling was strangely on the pitch for 120 minutes against Boro. Adam Lallana was given the full game as well but it was because he needed game-time since the ex-Saints player had missed out on the pre-season and the first few games with an injury. Lallana looked really positive and was sometimes Liverpool’s only source of creativity. Javier Manquillo was another player who was not rested but with Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan’s injury issues, Brendan Rodgers really didn’t have a whole lot of choice.
Liverpool have had two glaring weaknesses so far, something that explains why they sit so low in the table- the defence and the lack of creativity in the second and final thirds of the pitch. Last season, even though the side conceded a lot, they were also scoring at will. This time, not only have they not improved defensively, they also have no creativity in the midfield or ahead to get them the crucial goals.
Daniel Sturridge’s return would be a huge boost for the side and Rodgers hopes the Englishman would be fit by Saturday. However, it seems like the 24 year old would come off the bench in the second half and won’t be started straight up, especially since Liverpool face Swiss side Basel in the Champions League next Wednesday. Sturridge’s creativity has been a huge miss for the Reds. Balotelli’s work rate has been impressive, but the Italian operates more as a target man, and Liverpool’s counter-attacking style doesn’t work with just Balotelli in the middle. Fabio Borini is likely to start with him.
The fitness of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson needs to be determined. Jordan Henderson will be a starter if he is fit by the time. Coutinho should probably start too, since Sterling would be tired from the Capital One clash. Adam Lallana looked positive in the last game and would be a starter. Gerrard is likely to hold his place.
The back four would remain the same with the two new Spanish full-backs impressing over and over again. Jose Enrique looked really good against Boro, but Alberto Moreno is likely to keep his place. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren – who were both not used against Boro – would be the back partnership and have the task of building that and trying to keep a clean-sheet. The likes of Naismith, Lukaku and Mirallas can trouble the Liverpool defense greatly and Skrtel and Lovren would need to ensure that there are no defensive errors and Everton don’t walk away with three points.
Predicted Line-up (4-4-2): Mignolet; Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana, Sterling; Balotelli, Borini
Everton too have looked a shadow of their former self and the effects of Europa Legaue, an extra competition this season are certainly showing. The Toffees come into this game with a loss to Crystal Palace last Sunday and a loss to Swansea City on Tuesday.
Defense is Martinez’s prime worry as well. The Toffees have conceded 17 goals this season, 13 of which have come in the Barclays Premier League, currently the most most in the division. The statistic is made worse when we compare it to last season- Martinez’s men conceded just 39 times in the league and only Chelsea and champions Manchester City let in less. Where their matters are better than the opposition is that scoring goals hasn’t been a problem so far, having hit the back of the net 11 times in total and at least twice in each of their fixtures.
Against Liverpool, Everton can hope to continue the scoring as the Reds look highly vulnerable at the back. Set pieces look like they are destined to go in against Brendan Rodgers’ side, so Baines and co. will surely be practicing their set-pieces in the week. The pace of Lukaku can also cause Skrtel and Lovren considerable damage. Atsu and Moreno and likely to battle it on the left flank which would turn out to be an interesting clash. One of Naismith or Samuel Eto’o would start on the other flank- the good form of Naismith and the experience of Eto’o can hurt the Reds. The other likely option is Belgian Kevin Mirallas. He looks like the best bet and his pace could really trouble the hosts.
The Everton midfield is likely to comprise of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy, and Leon Osman. The three can work well against Liverpool and hope to link up with the attack as Steven Gerrard and co. certainly haven’t looked like providing much shield to their defense so far.
The back four is likely to comprise of Leighton Baines, Phil Jageilka, Sylvain Distin and John Stones. Stones should be played as a centre-back but has been employed as Seamus Coleman’s deputy when the Irishman is injured. Coleman could find himself fit in time for the crucial match, but his involvement is currently doubtful.
Predicted Line-up (4-3-3)- Howard; Stones, Distin, Jageilka, Baines; Barry, McCarthy, Osman; Atsu, Lukaku, Mirallas
- Liverpool have not lost against Everton in the last eight times the two sides took on each other in all competitions.
- Steven Gerrard is the only one in the present squad of both the teams to have more than five goals in the derby- eight in the EPL and nine overall
- It is relatively quite a common occurrence for either team to do the double in the league over the other one. Liverpool have managed it 14 times and Everton 9 times
Player to watch out for- Adam Lallana
The Englishman looked rusty straight after his return, but the midweek game would have certainly helped his cause. The player would need to show his best creative flair and link up with the attack, something which the Reds need desperately. In the possible absence of Raheem Sterling, Lallana would have a lot more burden and would need to do justice to it to help Rodgers’ side get some momentum in the league and climb up the table.
Predicted Score- Liverpool 2- Everton 2
Expect an exciting derby with goals and some shoddy defending from both ends. Much would depend on how both the back-lines deal against the attack, and how dominant the midfield is. Mario Balotelli would want to get on the scoresheet and justify his purchase as much as Romelu Lukaku.